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Department of the Languages and Cultures of the Near and Middle East

Introduction to Sufism

Course Code:
155901375
Unit value:
1
Year of study:
Year 2
Taught in:
Full Year

Prerequisites

  • 157400020:  Introduction to Islam OR 
  • 155901258:  The Muslim World: Unity in Diversity

Objectives and learning outcomes of the course

By the end of this course, students:

  1. should be familiar with the salient features of Sufism
  2. should be familiar with the historical background, emergence and development of Sufism
  3. should be familiar with the foremost personalities of the tradition, and the concepts, doctrines, trends and practices of Sufism within their appropriate religio-intellectual and social contexts
  4. should have competence in understanding and contextualising medieval historical materials through secondary sources

Workload

This course is taught over 22 weeks with 2 hours classroom contact per week.

Scope and syllabus

This course will chart and contextualise the development of Sufism from the earliest phase of Islamic history up to the modern period.  It will provide an introductory overview of the main figures, trends, doctrines, concepts and practices of Sufism.  Attention will be given to some of the controversies and debates that surrounded specific figures, doctrines or practices, or the Sufi tradition as a whole.  The course will use secondary sources and a small number of representative primary sources available in English translations.  

No knowledge of Arabic is needed to take this course.  

This course is compulsory for Year 2 students on the programme BA Islamic Studies.

Method of assessment

One three-hour written examination taken in May/June (70%); one essay of 2,500 - 3,000 to be submitted on day 1, week 1, term 2 (15%); one essay of 2,500 - 3,000 to be submitted on day 1, week 1, term 3 (15%).

Suggested reading

  • Addas, Claude. Quest for the Red Sulphur: The Life of Ibn ʿArabī, Cambridge, 1993.
  • Baldick, Julian. Mystical Islam, London, 1989.
  • Chittick, William C. The Sufi Path of Love: The Spiritual Teachings of Rumi, Albany, NY, 1983.
  • Chittick, William. Sufism: A Short Introduction, Oxford, 2000.
  • Chodkiewicz, M. An Ocean Without Shore: Ibn Arabi, the Book and the Law, Albany, NY, 1993.
  • Cornell, Vincent. The Way of Abu Madyan, Cambridge, 1996.
  • Ernst, Carl. Rūzbihān Baqlī: Mysticism and the Rhetoric of Sainthood in Persian Sufism, Richmond, 1994.
  • Ernst, Carl. The Shambhala Guide to Sufism, Boston, 1997.
  • Izutsu, T. Sufism and Taoism, Berkeley, 1984.
  • Karamustafa, Ahmet. Sufism: The Formative Period, Edinburgh, 2007.
  • Knysh, Alexander. Islamic Mysticism: A Short History, Leiden, 1999.
  • Lewisohn, Leonard (ed.). The Heritage of Sufism, 3 vols, Oxford, 1999.
  • Lings, Martin. A Sufi Saint of the Twentieth Century, Berkeley, 1971.
  • Massignon, L. The Passion of al-Ḥallāj: Mystic and Martyr of Islam, 4 vols, Princeton, NJ, 1982.
  • Schimmel, Annemarie. Mystical Dimensions of Islam, Chapel Hill, 1975.
  • Sells, Michael. Early Islamic Mysticism: Sufi, Qur’an, Mi‘raj, Poetic and Theological Writings, New York, 1996.
  • Trimingham, J. Spencer. The Sufi Orders of Islam, Oxford, 1971.
  • Valiuddin, Mir. Contemplative Disciplines in Sufism, London, 1980.